I’ve been wanting to do an ATI for the Utah Jazz since we started doing the BYU version three weeks ago but hadn’t come up with a good list of contributors that I wanted to work with. Listening to a recent podcast of the Dog & Deuce show I realized I had the guys I wanted to work with and set out to see if they would be interested. Of course, they were. You can catch the guys by clicking on the link above or following them on twitter at the followings links: The Dog and Deuce. Thanks again to Allen and James for your help here.
On Sunday, the Utah Jazz played at Memphis and played a very complete game that showed this team can play with anyone. They hung with Dallas at home and beat both LA teams, but lost at home to Toronto and then laid a huge egg at New Orleans on Monday night. What is the key to the Utah Jazz playing more consistent basketball?
Dog – The biggest problem all year has been remaining consistent on the offensive end. When opposing teams go on runs it is usually because Utah’s offense has stalled. Inconsistent point guard play and the lack of a star player who will put up big numbers night-in and night-out are the main causes of the Jazz’s offensive woes. For a stretch it looked like Paul Millsap might step up and fill that role but even he couldn’t keep up the high level of play. Until someone emerges to lead this team and one of the guards can consistently run the offense the Jazz will continue to follow up great wins with a string of bad losses.
Deuce – Consistency was the big question with the Jazz to begin the year and as of today, 2/15/2012, we’re 28 games into the season and still without any compelling answer. But on face value there are two things that any player, whether they play in the NBA, college, H.S. or Junior Jazz can control: 1) effort & 2) defense. All the times you talk about the Jazz playing well in this question, the things that stood out to me about those games are their defense and their effort. When those two things become priorities, not only to the coaching staff but to ALL of the players as well, then I believe we will see a Jazz team who consistently wins on the road and not only at ESA.
Matt – While I agree with both answers here, I have to side with Deuce. I think the offense on this team really flows when they are committed 100% to defense. The first few games they appeared lost and unconcerned with defense. David Locke, Jazz radio play-by-play guy, is convinced that Coach Ty Corbin changed that mentality with his post-game speech in San Antonio. You saw guys start emulating Raja Bell’s defensive mindset and I believe you saw Bell elevate his interest when he realized he wouldn’t be the only “stopper” on the team. The offense flows very nicely for this team when they get stops and get out in transition for a few plays and get everyone involved. The lack of a super star, go to guy on this team necessitates consistent movement and sharing of the ball on the team. I find it easier to share the ball around when the guys next to me are committing to defense, and I’ve noticed the same about the Jazz.
Who has been the most consistent player this season? The biggest surprise? The biggest disappointment?
Dog – I would have to say Earl Watson has been the most consistent to this point. In fact, I think he is one of the only players to show any sort of consistency. Gordon Hayward has really surprised me at times this season. I have been critical of him in the past and coming into the season didn’t expect much from him. His ability to get baskets at critical moments wasn’t something I thought he was capable of. Now if he could just develop some consistency (there’s that word again) to his game he will prove worthy of his draft pick. As for the biggest disappointment, the easy answer is Devin Harris. After what he showed us last year I really expected him to come close to filling the void left by Deron Williams. Unfortunately Harris hasn’t even come close to reaching the expectations Jazz fans had for him this season.
Deuce – The most obvious answer as far as being disappointing 28 games into the season would be Devin Harris, but it almost seems too easy. Besides Harris I’ve got to go with CJ Miles. I think he is consistently inconsistent and at this point in his career with his salary and experience at the NBA level that is just unacceptable.
Most consistent player on the team, not an easy question but it’s a toss-up between Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. If I had to choose one of those two I would go with Millsap because he isn’t a liability on the defensive side of the ball. Although Al makes some good defensive plays he also gets beat on a fairly regular basis because he takes risks and doesn’t play sound defense.
There have been so many surprises but in all honesty it’s the way Josh Howard has come into the Jazz organization and fit into his role. Coming back after a serious injury and not much playing time, he has found his role and flourished when given his opportunities. Hope he continues to stay healthy for the Jazz, I believe he and Earl Watson are important to the team’s success down the stretch.
Matt – Consistency seems to be a theme for this team, or lack of it at times. The award for Mr. Consistent has to go to the obvious choice of Earl Watson. It might not be as obvious if he were getting starter minutes, but in his role, he has flourished on that second unit, as well as when given the opportunity to lead the starting unit.
The biggest surprise to me is tougher. Josh Howard seems a likely choice, but over the past few games, I’ve been really impressed with Alec Burks. He has a lot to learn defensively, but I think he can do it. He had a good run of DNPs for whatever reason but he got a chance against New Orleans the other night and was the only player on the team consistently going to the hoop and it got him early playing time at Oklahoma City. He’s kept his head up and found ways to be meaningful despite being the third or fourth guy at his position on most nights.
The biggest disappointment is easy: Devin Harris, without question. The Jazz changed defensive philosophies that better jived with his defensive style, the style that got him so much notice early in his career, yet he has no lateral quickness, fails to stay with his guy regularly, doesn’t dish nearly enough dimes for a Jazz PG, and can’t hit a shot when it’s needed.
Is there a reason why the Jazz coaching staff has been so loyal to Devin Harris, despite the apparent increase in productivity when Earl Watson is on the floor? Who would you prefer to start and/or end the game?
Dog – I’m sure there is a reason that Tyrone Corbin has been so loyal to Devin Harris but I don’t have a clue what it is. When a team is struggling this badly to put points on the board your only hope is that your point guard can facilitate scoring either by executing meticulously or getting guys into easy scoring position. Earl Watson has proven he can do both, Devin Harris has not. There is no doubt in my mind that Earl Watson is my first choice to run the point down the stretch. As for who should be the starter…? In the immortal words of Jerry Sloan: “It doesn’t matter who starts the game, it only matters who finishes.”
Deuce – I think the main reason that the Jazz coaching staff has remained loyal to Devin is because of a logistical issue. Our back up point guards aren’t the youngest players on our team. With a shortened season where games are being played 3 to 4 and maybe even 5 times a week you have to watch the amount of time that older players log. At this point you gotta stick with the starting line up as is but I do believe at some point you gotta go with the hot hand. For example, in the Dallas game our offense was moving, flowing and therefore scoring with Earl Watson in the game, but Corbin chose to substitute Harris back in with approx. 3:30 left on the clock and our offense stalled and we ended up losing the game. I said the moment he entered the game that it was a bad decision and I stick with that statement whole-heartedly. We talk about this on “The Dog and Deuce Show” all the time; we have no de facto Hall of Famers on our team, no Stockton or Malone. Coach Corbin’s job is to win basketball games and if that means that Devin Harris gets angry that he doesn’t get inserted back into the game when Earl is running the offense well, then I think Corbin should tell Harris one thing “Prove to me you deserve to be out there now when the games on the line in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters of tomorrow night’s game”!
Matt – Let me start by saying I also have no clue. Deuce’s argument is as captivating an answer I think you can provide. But is it really so much to ask for a line like Jeremy Lin is having in New York? The Jazz don’t need someone to be propelled to rock star status, but I don’t think it is too much to ask for a Utah Jazz point guard to play at Devin Harris’ career numbers of 13 PPG and 5 APG. I think a true Jazz PG should average closer to Lin’s numbers of 8 APG (in February), get 2 steals per night, and know when to shoot. Harris used to be a guy who went to the hoop and created. Why can’t he do that now? Loop the paint, dish if it’s there or keep running circles if it isn’t. At the very least, I’d like to see some excitement or interest when he is out there. It just seems very MIA. On the other hand, Watson is so engaged in what is going on. He’s so determined to make the other four guys around him the stars and only shoots when it is needed. The Clippers game when the Jazz won in SLC is a great example. He was lobbing balls from everywhere to Jeremy Evans, allowing him to be showcased. But I agree with Dog’s assessment – if Harris has to start, fine, but I want Watson running the show when the game is on the line.